The Associated Press recently obtained a study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) which found that hundreds of tractor-trailer and bus companies that were ordered to be shut down are still on the road under different names. The companies were shut down because of federal violations such as suspended licenses and alleged drug use.
The GAO study found that at least 20 out of 200 commercial bus that had been ordered out of service in 2007 or 2008 evaded compliance by setting up “reincarnated” companies under new names. Some violators were in Georgia, as well as Arizona, Arkansas, California, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, and Washington.
Alarmingly, 1,073 trucking companies are believed to be possible reincarnations of companies that were ordered to be shut down because of federal violations. Many of these companies are still using the same address, owner name, employees, and contact numbers. At least 500 of these reincarnated companies were still operating as of last month.
“These companies pose a safety threat to the motoring public,” said Greg Kutz of GAO. “We believe that these carriers reincarnated into new companies to evade fines and avoid performing the necessary corrective actions.”
Kutz thinks that the number of violators is likely more than 500 because the study only identified companies that were still using the same information.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) adopted new oversight measures of last year’s accident in which an unlicensed charter bus blew a tire and skidded off the highway in Texas, killing 17 people. The tire was retreated, and the use of recapped tires on steering axles is a violation of federal regulations. Now, newly licensed companies must pass a safety audit within 18 months of approval. This safety audit has helped authorities identify many of the reincarnated companies.
Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn) heads up the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that wants a federal standard which would give the FMCSA more power to revoke licenses and impose fines. At this point, the law is somewhat ambiguous when it comes to federal power versus state power. This measure would also allow the FMCSA to improve its computer systems.
The GAO study cites specific examples of reincarnated companies (without revealing the companies’ names). For instance, in May 2007, an Arkansas motor carrier company was cited for nine safety violations including failing to obtain proper licenses and maintain driver qualification files. The company was fined $3,050. The next month, a new company opened with two of the same drivers, three of the same vehicles, the same last name for the company owner, and virtually identical addresses. This new reincarnated company operated for 18 months before it was ordered out of service for drug testing violations in 2008.
Hopefully this company is actually out of service now and not simply operating under a new name. But, based on the GAO study, the exact same unsafe trucks could very well still be on our roadways. Many large trucking companies are all-too-familiar with legal loopholes and ways of skirting around the law. And many trucking companies knowingly go against federal safety regulations on a daily basis.
If you’ve been injured in a trucking accident, you need an experienced attorney who understands the intricacies of FMCSA regulations. If you have any questions, call 404-531-9700 to schedule your free consultation with an expert truck accident attorney at MLN Law.